Islands Prides Itself on Customer Service, Eventually…

There’s a few emails sitting in our inbox from people with reports of positive customer service. They await the bile to drain from our lymph nodes or for a forest pixie to come up and toss our salad, something to get us to put down the rug we gnaw at feverishly to vent our consumer rage.

To that end, we’ve got this letter from Billy who went to Island restaurants, which is said to pride itself on high customer service. Needless to say, the customer service was substandard. The manager apologized profusely, comped the meal and gave them a $40 gift card for the next time Billy and Billy’s boyfriend want to satisfy their craving for a ‘Big Wave Burger’ or ‘Wiqi Waqi BBQ Chicken Salad.’

Is this good customer service, or Stockholm syndrome? Doesn’t good customer service mean getting it right the first time?

Sidebar question: who eats two pounds of fries?

Hey Ben, et. al.,

“My boyfriend and I went to dinner at Islands ( on Sunday for dinner. We had a coupon from a mail flyer for 2 pounds of free fries. We were seated quickly and our server came over quickly to take our order: two waters, two burgers, and the free fries. He was a little slow returning with the water, but whatever, right?

A few minutes later, he comes back to tell us that they’re out of fries, so he gives us back our original coupon plus two more for free fries. Score, right? It gets better. It took forever for us to get our food. When we did, a different server brought it to us and notified us (again) that they were out of fries but she could bring us an order of onion rings. So we got those. Unfortunately, we had no ketchup and desperately needed more napkins and water. Our server was nowhere to be found.

Eventually we were able to flag down another server to bring us those. We still didn’t see our actual server again until he threw the check on the table without saying a word. We were both really dissatisfied with the service, but we had planned to just pay the tab and leave him a bad tip — along the lines of 50 cents. Normally, I tip at least 15 percent or $3, bare minimum, whichever is less; this time, though, we had truly horrible service. Oh, and did I mention my medium-well burger was actually medium-rare?

So after I plopped my debit card onto the tray, I waited for him to pick it up. He walked right by our table without even looking at us. That was the final straw. We stood up to find a manager at the host stand, but just about that time, she walked by our table carrying 7 or 8 glasses. I got her attention and told her that we needed to discuss our service, but that if she needed to drop those off first then to go ahead.

She came back in about 30 seconds and asked us what was the problem. We explained about the horrible service. She said that our server was actually one of their “more experienced, veteran” servers, and that they really pride themselves on attentiveness at Islands. She apologized for the service and said that she would personally have a talk with him about it. She asked if we had already paid our check and I said no. She said it was on her. Beyond that, she even gave us a gift card to come back and make sure that the service was better the next time. That really shocked me, but when she brought the gift card back to the table and said that she had loaded it with $40, I was flabbergasted!

I can honestly say that we will go back to Islands — that particular one, especially — because our issues were addressed, in a very friendly and kind way at that. I hadn’t asked for the gift card, or even the comped meal, but the manager there took the extra step to make things right, even when she didn’t have to do so.

The store was Islands Mission Valley at 2441 Fenton Parkway, San Diego, California.



Edit Your Comment

  1. Das Ubergeek says:

    Service is generally uneven at Islands, but they do make up for it when you complain. Be prepared for the manager to come over and make sure everything was OK when you pay with the $40 gift card.

    Some locations are better than others — Glendale is fine, but Burbank is usually pretty bad.

  2. konstantConsumer says:

    if it’s a rare occurance, then making up for bad service is a great thing. when i waited tables in college (only two years ago), i would every once in a while just mess something up. maybe i had a huge paper due the next day, and i was stressing about that. or maybe it was just CRAZY busy. we had a very small kitchen, so if we got a ton of people in at once, the food could sometimes take forever. but when something did go wrong, we made sure that the customer felt that we were truly sorry, and that we would make every effort to get them back into the place and happy. it seems like that’s what that manager was trying to do, so that’s cool.

    about the fries though. TWO POUNDS! good god. also, what burger place runs out of fries?

  3. AppTechie says:

    That’s both sad…and happy. I used to love eating at Islands…btw, they are a chain owned by Chart House (one of the best restaurants in California) and they do take their customer service seriously (I know because my brother was a waiter there when they opened one here in Dallas, and boy did they ever beat CS into the servers’ heads). I really miss those gigantic burgers, they are really good…and I still laugh at the enormous salads (always with a plethora of black beans, ick!).

  4. Morgan says:

    Gah, I always hated eating at Islands when I was in college (I don’t live near one now so it doesn’t really come up)- not because of cutomer service, but because the burgers don’t come with fries by default like every other sit down place in the country and because there’s not really a “side of fries” option- if you order fries, you’re paying a few bucks for a huge basket. So if you’re not there with one or two others that want fries so you can split it with someone, you’re wasting a ton of food and the money you spent on it.

  5. non-meat-stick says:

    yeah, I believe a typical serving of Fries is 7oz.

    Last night I 2 men race the Chuck Norris Challange. 2 1lb patties, 8 strips of bacon, 4 slices of cheese, side of fries, side of onion rings, 12 pickle slices. The kicker is that it’s stacked like a Big Mac, but the middle bun is sliced in half to make a grilled cheese. 24 minutes later it was all over. 17.95$ bill to the loser…

  6. Phil Ulrich says:

    Ideal customer service is getting it right the first time. Good customer service is fixing it as quickly as you can when it’s not, or making up for it if it can’t be fixed.

  7. I was a bit miffed the first time that I went to Islands and didn’t get fries with my burger, but when the burger came out, I realized it was a full meal in itself. So are the fries. Morgan has it right — the fries are not for a single diner, but for sharing.

    They weren’t really busy that night, konstantConsumer; we were seated immediately and in fact, the manager told me they never give their servers more than 5 tables. And, yeah, what burger place does run out of fries?!

    Das Ubergeek, I’ve noticed the same thing: Mission Valley is generally very good, La Jolla is pretty bad, and the one at the Howard Hughes Promenade in Culver City was fantastic.

    AppTechie: I didn’t know they were owned by Chart House, but that’s interesting. Thanks for the info. And all the salads in Cali (at least in SoCal) are ginormous and full of foofoo ingredients. :)

    Phil Ulrich: You’re exactly right.

  8. I just want to make sure here . . . you meant to say “whatever is *more*” about the tip, right? (Because as it reads now, you would leave a $3 tip on a $1000 meal, because you said you tip “whichever is less.”)

    Incidentally, I’m proud that nobody has thought to make any gay-tarded jokes. Maybe the Consumerist is growing up. :)

  9. Smoking Pope says:

    Every place screws something up occasionally, and since they’re in business to make money a free meal plus a $40 gift card is a pretty good indication that they took these complaints seriously and value their customers. Good for them.

    I had a similar instance where an Italian joint that wasn’t even busy flat out ignored my table (me + wife + child). I mean, REALLY ignored us. So we left and spoke to the manager on the way out. He apologized, offered to give us a free meal served by a different (non brain-dead) waitress. When we refused and went to leave, he gave us his card and asked us to consider trying them again in the future and he would comp a full meal for up to 10 people.

    It may not always seem like it, but there’s an awful lot of places out there that really get it.

  10. it.goes.there: Nope, I meant less. I said “at least … whichever is less.” So my minimum, then, is either 15 percent or $3, whichever is less. If it’s a $10 meal, I’ll leave minimum $3; if it’s a $100 meal, I’ll leave minimum $15. But, yeah, confusing choice of words.

    I haven’t been reading Consumerist for a very long time (about 3 weeks or so), but the folks here seemm to be pretty open-minded. :)

    Smoking Pope: The places that get it, even when they mess up, are the ones that get my repeat business. I’m actually more likely to keep going someplace that drops the ball but makes it up than someplace that’s run like a concentration camp just to ensure that there’s never a slip-up.